americanskin: (078)
Angela Louella Ashwood ([personal profile] americanskin) wrote in [community profile] muserevival2017-05-21 07:31 pm

147.2. Quote

"You have to fight through some bad days to earn the best days of your life." - Unknown

Angela had set herself a daily goal: to visit her son without crying and feeling like an attempted baby murderer. It was hard. Fear, doubt, guilt, hopelessness; they were all bottled up inside her and it felt like a losing battle. She didn’t understand why it was so hard for her to connect with her newborn son, but of course, she was now trying to sort through it with a therapist. Oh, how she didn’t envy a therapist’s job, working day in, day out, with people who believed they couldn’t get better or just plain chose not to because staying miserable was easier anything else. The fighters, the survivors, they didn’t get to have those badges of honour without a fight. Fighting is what she had to do, if she could somehow figure out how.

The ordeal had left her broken and damaged, and it wasn’t for the first time in her life either. She had fought raging emotional wars before and come out the other side somehow. Why did this time feel different? Or did scars really just fade with time, along with your accurate memory of what happened to get them.

Soon, she conquered the fear of seeing her son. But her therapist isolated the fact she had only been going with someone else, and that meant handing them the reins while she continued to let the gaping distance - albeit emotional and psychological - from the premature newborn reign. That was the safety blanket for her. The comfort zone. She didn’t risk hurting him again if she didn’t get close to him. Comfort zones and safety blankets were the worst weapon against yourself when you were trying to conquer demons, because then you just wouldn’t. You don’t need to fight anything if you’ve convinced yourself you shouldn’t have to. And she had. She convinced herself everyone else was a better parent for her baby boy than she was. She had even convinced herself all his doctors and nurses were a better fit. They were the ones keeping him alive, after all.

Postpartum Depression. The therapist took the step of labelling it today. Angela knew what it was. She knew people who had it. She even knew a father who had it. Lorenzo battled it when he was suddenly left holding the baby when his partner committed suicide. Angela was a cop, she had seen it countless times during her career. She had seen people fight it, beat it, or be destroyed by it. Then who was at risk? The tiny innocent baby who didn’t ask for any of this. Not that her therapist was guilt-tripping her. Her own traumatised mind was becoming an expert on that. The worst of it all was he was delivered by c-section when she was unconscious. She awoke to an empty womb when she had been feeling him inside her months. She was sure he had never felt worse than that sensation in her life.

Somehow, she had to remember what maternal was again. It took a lot of courage to ask the nurse to take her to the NICU alone that morning. She cold, inside and out. Her thick robe did nothing to alleviate it. She had felt chilled ever since she woke up and realised her baby wasn’t inside her anymore. Even the first time she had seen him, he didn’t feel like hers. It had to get better. It had to, because it couldn’t get any worse. Unless he died. If he died, it would be her fault. Voicing that out loud had her being prescribed some antidepressants, though she was advised gently that it would take time for them to begin to do their job. In the meantime, her goal was to visit her son at least once a day. If she had to bawl her eyes out the whole time, so be it.

But she also knew babies and children soaked up negative emotions like little sponges, and she began to fear that would scar him for life. The new goal was born of that, though it simply felt like no matter what she did, she was a danger to her son. Now, sitting there in the soft armchair in the NICU nursery, she was biting the inside of her lip, eyes trained away from anything in an incubator and locked on the base of an IV stand. She was biting her inner lip so hard, she soon tasted blood. The moments that passed as she waited felt like a lifetime, but soon, the nurse was coming to gently place the soft and way-too-small bundle in the crook of her arm. There was tubes and wires feeding out of his soft bunny rug, hand-crocheted by Granny Cole. He still had to be connected to all this stuff. Being born over eight weeks too soon, he had to grow more to regain strength of his little organs. She hoped he was a fighter and a survivor, because she didn’t feel like either right now.

As soon as she was reminded how tiny he was, the tears were coming. That day, she wasn’t going to achieve her goal. Though, they weren’t as bad the day before. She could still see him through them. She cupped her hand around his little hand. She had nursed puppies bigger than him. He was so beautiful. That, she couldn’t deny. He didn’t open his eyes often, but when he did, those Chevalier eyes were there in all their glory, just like his daddy, uncles, and cousin. His grandmother too, may she be resting in peace after the tragic life she of concealed secrets and lies she had to live. The tiny had he was wearing today matched his blanket. Granny Cole was crocheting up a storm. He was going to be the warmest little person in New York, come the cooler months.

Angela leaned over so she could kiss his forehead. It was still painful for her to see that his little hand only just wrapped around the tip of her finger. Clint had big hands, and when he held him, he could be cupped in the nest of his palms like he was made to fit there. It still continued to feel like she was holding someone else’s child. She couldn’t connect to the fact this little tiny human being was what had been inside her, moving around, being shown to them in all his glory on the sonogram screens. Why did he look so much bigger on those screens? Bigger and healthier, without needles in his veins and a breathing tube in his nose.

If she gave him back the nurse too soon, she would fail. She couldn’t fail him. Clint had been right, she signed up for this. She closed her eyes, internally bracing herself to keep sticking it out. Maybe she could wait to see how long she could hold him before something went wrong? It seemed like a plausible plan. Anxiously, she was folding the hems of them blanket around him, making sure it was secure enough to keep him warm. She tried to tuck it over his little hands, but he didn’t seem to like that. Those little fingers kept finding their way back out again. They only stopped their search when Angela tried again to tuck the blanket in, and he took hold of her finger inside.

She gazed at his little fingernails. They were so small, they almost weren’t visible. He stopped his restless wriggling, and seemed to find peace cuddled in against her chest, holding onto her finger. His tiny nose and lips were perfect, and his eyebrows so fair they were just enough to frame his eyes. He looked like a baby, just way too small to be real. More like a doll, but his hand was warm against her, and not the cold plastic of a toy.

“Do you want to feel him against your skin?”

“No,” Angela replied immediately, no hesitation. The nurse was standing nearby filling out some medical charts and had frightened Angela with the sudden words, making her feel like she was committing a crime for cuddling a baby that wasn’t hers. But he was hers. Against her skin? There was no way that was safe. She’d kill him.

“It helps soothe them, and helps nurture the mom and bub bond. You could try, and see how you feel? We just tuck him in under your next against your chest so he can feel your heartbeat,” the nurse explained.

Angela’s fight or flight brain was scrambling for danger signs in this, but it sounded so… simple? For any other mother and baby, she would probably think it was beautiful. Was she an imposter for wanting to try it? It was confusing, and more tears welled up but she was finding herself nodding. “You’ll take him if he doesn’t like it, though?” she asked tearfully.

“Straight away,” the nurse promised.

There was a little bit of juggling on the nurse’s part, but she help Angela undo the top few buttons of her pyjama top, and then unfolded the blanket around Zéphyr. Angela froze, her breath catching up in her throat, when he was placed in against her chest, and the nurse wrapped Angela’s bathrobe in over him so he was cocooned safely against her skin. She couldn’t have been prepared for how this felt. His hat had been taken off too, so his cheek was against her skin near where her heart lay beneath. It was terrifying, but it felt right. Somehow. She didn’t understand how

Her goal was shattered. Tears began to flow in earnest as she sat there with her infant son snuggled against her chest, skin to skin. He slept so peacefully and didn’t stir. Angela even asked the nurse to check he was still breathing, because she was terrified she was harming him. He was breathing. His heart was beating, and he slept. No cries, no stirring. She stayed there for the rest of the day with him, her fingers sweeping feather-soft over his fine hair and rubbing his little back with her finger.

One goal hadn’t been achieved, but she had conquered another hurdle she had never expected she could face.

angela ashwood
- original character -

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